Girl’s cancer battle sparks genius idea to help sick kids
It was the sight no parent ever wants to see.
Jason Sotiris' daughter Angela was crying, she had vomited and the tangle of drips and tubes surrounding her bed at The Children's Hospital in Westmead, Sydney, was making her more distressed.
The little girl was in hospital being treated for multi-system Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disease for which she had been given only a 20 per cent chance of survival after being diagnosed shortly after her first birthday.
"She woke up, she coughed and she threw up and she started to cry," Mr Sotiris said.
"I was trying to change her … the more I moved her the more upset she got, because she was so weak from the chemo."
But it was that experience that gave Mr Sotiris an idea - what if sick kids could feel like superheroes instead?
"(I thought) gee this is so bloody hard, why can't there be something that it makes it easier for the parents to change?" he said.
"And that's when the light bulb went off."
The Sydney tradie came up with the idea for Supertee and, along with his childhood friend Yusuf Muklis, designed a range of superhero-inspired garments for children.
The clothes are designed to not only raise sick kids' spirits, but also made life in a hospital bed easier - the capes double as bibs, there are side openings for tubes, access lines and temperature access and they are 100 per cent cotton.
Mr Sotiris launched Supertee in 2018 and in the past two years, has been able to give sick kids in hospitals across Australia the inspiring outfit.
Anyone can buy a Supertee pack from their website and Mr Sotiris will distribute it to a child in hospital, not taking a cent from the sale in the process.
Supertee now means Mr Sotiris can "walk into rooms where I've got bad memories and I'm replacing them with beautiful memories" as well as hopefully brighten the day of families who are under immense strain.
"It's immensely stressful, so for us, I don't want parents to have to pay for this, I want to create a bit of a connection with those who want to help out and for those that deserve all the help in the world," Mr Sotiris said.
"It's not just about the shirt anymore it's about a way to bridge the gap between the two."
As for Angela, she is now eight and thriving, although she still has yearly scans and check-ups.
"She loves school, she loves hip-hop, she loves her TikTok, she loves makeup," Mr Sotiris said. "She never stops talking and she wants to be a nurse someday."
But as Supertee has grown so did the mess inside the family home, where Mr Sotiris runs the social enterprise from the dining room table.
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. ⚡️“Every Superhero Deserves A Costume”⚡️ . Introducing the Supertee™ The latest innovation in children’s medical garments designed to build courage and comfort, as well as boost funding for research into childhood cancer and diseases! . Equipped with features that will help little heroes face the toughest of battles: . 💥100% cotton 💥Xray *, MRI and Pet Scan Friendly 💥Cape designed to also be used as a bib 💥Shoulder and side access for cables and tubes as well as easy removal of the shirt without disturbing child 💥Packaged in a cool tin which also includes a custom comic and activity book, morale boosting themed stickers and a bookmark with a message to the parents! . Supertees can be purchased through our website. You can also sponsor a Supertee to a child in need. Check out our website for more information at www.supertee.com.au *Studs may display as imaging artefact #supertee #the_supertee_project #superhero #medical #health #children #sickkids #courage #hospital #fun #innovation #community #love
"The amount of time Vanessa (my wife) would say, 'take these boxes out,' and I would say I can't take this medical garments into my garage I can't do it'," he said.
"They have to be looked after very well and that's why they have to be temperature controlled, away from direct sunlight."
Mr Sotiris and his family feature on Channel 10's The Living Room this week, where Amanda Keller, Barry Du Bois, Chris Brown, and Miguel Maestre help build the well-deserving dad an office in the backyard to help house Supertees.
"The fact that Channel 10 wanted to do this for us and for the hosts then to have their support we were fighting back tears," he said.
The Living Room airs 7.30pm on Friday on Channel 10
Originally published as 'Bloody hard' dad moment sparks idea